Sunday, July 12, 2009

Prophets are Deviants

Every team needs a deviant, someone who can help the team by challenging the tendency to want too much homogeneity, which can stifle creativity and learning. Deviants are the ones who stand back and say, “Well, wait a minute, why are we even doing this at all? What if we looked at the thing backwards, or turned it inside out?” That's when people say, “Oh, no, no, no, that’s ridiculous “. And so the discussion about what’s ridiculous comes up… The deviant opens up more ideas, and that gets you a lot more originality.

In our research, we've looked carefully at both teams that produced something original and those that were merely average, when nothing really sparkled. It turned out that the teams with deviants outperformed teams without them. In many cases, deviant thinking is a source of great innovation.

I would add, though that often the deviant veers from the norm at great personal cost. Deviants are individuals who are willing to say the thing that nobody else is will to articulate. The deviant raises people's level of anxiety, which a brave thing to do. When the boat is floating with the current, it really is extraordinarily courageous for somebody to stand up and say, “We've got to pause and probably change direction,” Nobody on the team wants to hear that, which is precisely why many team leaders crack down on deviants and try to get them to stop asking difficult questions, maybe even knock them off the team. And yet it’s when you lose the deviant that the team can become mediocre.
Diane Coutu in a Harvard Business Review article called Why Teams Don’t Work based on a study of numerous teams in a variety of situations.

This is a good description of the role of the prophet.

1 comment:

Gene Redlin said...

Ron, this is true in more ways than even you or I can imagine. We are not go along to get along types and are therefore considered a pain in the side by some leadership.

I just came from a conference where the presiding officer of our fellowship, who is chairman of the Pentecostal World Fellowship and former chairman of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA)stood up and publicly confirmed to the large gathering my calling and office as prophet of God.

Because I have not been quiet about some things that I know are on the heart of God nor do I go along to get along, it really grated on some of the leadership of the denomination. They see me as a deviant. A troublemaker (is that you oh Troubler of Israel?). A person who keeps asking why. A person who speaks out what God says and doesn't look for position.

This is torment. Hard to fire or demote a prophet. And then when a Dr Leggett says, "he's a Prophet and you need to hear him" its a tough row to hoe.

I don't expect I will have smoother sailing. I didn't NEED the confirmation of the call on my life. I think others needed to hear someone speak it out to open their ears to what God is saying.

Hopefully now when I poke and prod in my "deviant" way, they will be less likely to be offended and hear it for what it is, a word from God.

I will now steal this. (with attribution) Thanks.